Most of these can be bought pretty cheaply secondhand on AbeBooks.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. You can’t not read this if you are even thinking of starting a business. And I don’t say that lightly.
Focus by Al Ries.
Creating Passionbrands by Helen Edwards and Derek Day
The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding by Al Ries and Laura Ries
Luxury Strategy by J Kapferer is a great book which explains the workings of a luxury brand (and that luxury and premium are very different).
All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin. Behind this stupid title and cover Godin explains the important but often overlooked value of having a story behind your business. Well worth the easy read that it is.
Visual Hammer by Laura Ries is frustratingly anecdotal, but good food for thought if you are creating a brand identity.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh. The story behind Zappos.
Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance. Inspirational!
Let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouinard. A truly inspiring read by an inspiring person. He has managed to achieve both sustainability and profits.
Emotional Design by Donald A Norman offers a great introduction to the elements of great aesthetic design.
The Toyota Way by Jeffry Liker offers great insight into how Toyota revolutionised manufacturing across all industries with their lean principles.
Lean Thinking by Womack and Jones is another great book on lean principles.
Sustainability and business:
Cradle to Cradle by Braungart and McDonough is a thought provoking and inspiring read outlining how consumption and sustainability can co-exist by taking a holistic approach to product design.
Mid Course Correction by Ray Anderson is an inspiring read about how Interface Carpets managed to successfully achieve profitable sustainability.
HTML and CSS:
HTML & CSS by Jon Ducket is a conscise, well layed out, example-rich book that I would highly recommend.
Podcasts I listen to:
Car Talk: these guys are hilarious!
NPR Planet Money
Smart Passive Income
The Entrepreneurs by Monocle
BBC World Business Report
Peter Day’s World of Business
The following are some useful tools which I use:
Hiring freelancers: Elance allows you to hire freelancers anywhere in the world, including from countries where wages are a fraction of those in Australia. The quality of the freelancers can vary, but they have a feedback system similar to ebay. Also remember that a poorly defined job will always get a poor outcome. Another similar offering is Freelancer.
Landing page testing: Lander is perfect for testing ideas. Using its drag and drop interface you can create a landing page displaying info about your idea and a sign-up box with no HTML coding.
Online shopping website platforms: shopify and BigCommerce are the two leading eCommerce platform providers. They let you create an online store simply and cheaply. I use BigCommerce but there’s not much difference between them.
Domain name registration: I’ve used both GoDaddy and Crazy Domains and prefer GoDaddy. They were a little more expensive upfront, but Crazy Domains charged for a DNS redirect (ie to use the domain name on your website).
Mailing lists: MailChimp is an easy to use tool for managing mailing lists, creating attractive newsletters and analysing their results. It is free if you have up to 2,000 email addresses and send less than 12,000 emails per month. It integrates nicely with BigCommerce.
Crowdfunding: Kickstarter and Indiegogo are great way to fund products that require a large amount of captial upfront. Customers commit to buy your product before you spend the money, and if you achieve the required level of sales you deliver the product (if not they get a fefund). It’s also a great way to buy cool stuff and support new ventures at the same time.
HTML/CSS debugging: Firebug is a great Firefox plugin that lets you view the HTML/CSS code of a website.
A 1300 phone number: I got mine through Velox and am happy with it. They start at $5 per month (plus calls – inbound calls cost you) and routes to my mobile.
Google Trends: see what people are searching for using Google Trends. It’s a good way to get a rough idea of the latent demand for your product category.
Handy how to’s:
The following are businesses I love and have found inspirational:
- Dodo Case a fairly recent and apparently successful startup who make iPad cases in San Francisco using traditional book binding techniques and materials. Combining the old and new in this way is genius.
- American Giant These guys set out to make the ‘worlds best sweater’. Through a great story, some good PR and a great product, at one point had a 4 month waiting list for their sweater! Yes, you read that right, a 4 month wait for a sweater.
- Jackson’s Honest Chips This company was started in a the founder’s kitchen in Colorado making potato crisps cooked in coconut oil. Without any marketing they managed to sell one of the most ubiquitous products on earth to people in 11 countries, at a significant price premium. I had the fortune of meeting the founders last year. They are great people and doing something which the really believe in. One reason for their success is the phenomenal story behind the brand.
- Net-a-Porter sell high end women’s fashion online at full retail prices. They are proof that you can sell stuff at a premium online. They have a sister (or brother!) site for men Mr-Porter.
- Warby Parker sell hipster glasses online for $95 – much cheaper than the incumbents. They allow you to try 5 pairs for 5 days and return the ones you don’t like. They have been a huge disruptor in an industry dominated by two huge players. They have raised a ton of venture capital and spawned a myriad of imitators.
- Zappos started by selling shoes online and differentiated by offering great service. They tested their idea by taking photos of shoes at shops, posting them on their e-commerce website at a discount to the shop’s price, then when customers bought them, went back to the shop, bought the shoes and shipped them to the customer at a loss. This is a great example of the Lean Startup’s minimum viable product idea in practice. They were bought by Amazon for $1.2 billion 10 years after being founded. They are great marketers, and the book by their CEO Tony Hsieh, ‘Delivering Happyness’ is well worth a read.
- Lifx make wifi controlled LED lights that plug into standard household sockets. It was founded by an Aussie guy and raised $1.3m in 6 days on Kickstarter.
- Aesop. An Aussie company that make soaps, moisturiser and stuff like that, and charge around $40 for a small bottle of the stuff. Their product is great, but the branding and merchandising of their stores is nothing short of brilliant. The company was recently sold for $68 million.
- Deus Ex Machina sell clothes, surf boards, custom motorbikes and more. They were founded in 2005 in Sydney by Dare Jennings, one of the guys behind Mambo. They now have stores around the world. They have done a brilliant job of creating heritage and the appearance of legacy from scratch. This is extremely hard to do without looking fake or kitsch. Ralph Lauren and Superdry are other examples of manufactured heritage executed brilliantly.
- Kogan was started by Ruslan Kogan in his parents’ garage in 2006. He is now said to be worth $320m. His genius is in pulling off PR stunts that get wide media coverage and are right ‘on-brand’. This page lists some.
- Dollar Shave Club have turned buying razors into a subscription service. For a fixed monthly fee they ship you razors each month. The brilliance of this is that they get a long term, regular revenue stream from customers. They have also executed everything from packaging to promotion very well, and raised a ton of VC funding to boot.
- Spotify have led the long overdue change of music as a product to music as a service. A similar trend towards products as services is happening in many industries, including software (in a big way), movie rental (NetFlix), shaving, cars (ie carshare programs), and even industrial carpet (a company calledInterface).
- Patagonia outdoor clothing have set out to do no unnecessary harm to the planet. They have made some phenomenal achievements in sustainable and ethical production, not to mention also making their founder, Yvon Chouinard, around $200 million along the way. Check out their Don’t buy this jacket ad campaign, transparent supply chain and supply chain policies. Let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouniard is a a truly inspiring read. This youtube video captures the essence of his vision.